Eliza Howell Park is an exciting place in early May — booming woodland wildflowers, incoming bird migrants, and the sudden appearance of the bracket fungus known as Dryad’s Saddle (sometimes called Pheasant Back Mushroom).
I refer to it as “sudden appearance” because, it seems, I see a number these shelves on dead trees and logs when they are already several inches wide, without preparation, without having seen little ones first.
Last year someone asked me how fast a 6-inch Dryad’s Saddle grew. I was not satisfied with my “very fast” kind of answer so I decided that this year I would try to learn a more precise response.
I found my case study on April 26, when the stem had just emerged.
In the time since I have been checking it regularly, carrying a tape measure. The next picture is of the same fungus, starting on the top left and going clockwise, on April 28, May 1, May 2, and May 3, growing from 1 and 1/2 inches across to 5 inches across.
Looking carefully, one can see a small vine on the tree behind the mushroom and observe how far the shelf has spread by reference to the vine.
This particular specimen is not fully grown yet, but my measurements have ended. Sometime between midday May 3 and the morning of May 4, something or somebody broke it.
Perhaps that someone/thing could not resist breaking open this attractive mushroom, investigating the nature of the flesh. That’s very understandable, but I wished they had picked a different specimen.
I did learn quite a bit about the rate of growth in the week I had watched. The stem was about 1 inch wide and 7 days later the cap was 5 inches wide and expandong rapidly. So I now have a somewhat better answer to the question of how fast Dryad’s Saddle grows.
I have now located another new fungus, a multiple this time, in a different location.
Unless I get totally caught up in the arrival of the different migrating birds in the next week, I will likely continue to record my observations on the growth of one of my favorite mushrooms.